Preparing for Your First Meeting with Your Family Law Lawyer
It is understandable to feel stressed about meeting with a family law lawyer for the first time to discuss your separation or divorce. Many people have only limited experience with lawyers and those experiences are often to deal with the far less emotionally-driven issues such as buying a home, arranging a mortgage or preparing a will. This post is to attempt to reduce your stress level at your first meeting with your family law lawyer by offering some advice and recommendations to you.
- In advance of the meeting, write out your questions. By doing so, you will be able to keep your discussion with your lawyer focused and directed. Your lawyer will likely outline to you during your meeting the various issues that need to be addressed, but it will be helpful for him/her to know the specific issues and concerns you have.
- Prepare a summary outlining your family history for the benefit of your lawyer. It is helpful for the lawyer to receive from you details such as the date you began living with your partner, the date of your marriage, the date you separated and details concerning your children (names and dates of birth). Outline the history of employment for both you and your partner as well as details as to your current income levels, should you know that. Prepare a summary of your assets and debts if you can. Even if you don’t know the values of some of those things, listing what you own (home, RRSPs, pension, etc.) will allow your lawyer to know what additional work will need to be done in order to meet the requirement for financial disclosure in moving forward.
- Think about what your concerns are and what your objectives are. If you are presently a stay at home parent, do you have any aspirations or plans to return to school or to seek out employment at some point down the road? Do you have concerns about your partner’s ability to parent your children? Do you have concerns about how you will be able to meet your expenses? Or are you concerned that you don’t know what the expenses are to keep the home afloat? These concerns will likely be reflected in the list of questions you prepare – or should be!
- Bring a friend or family member along with you. There is a lot of information that will be provided to you during the course of your initial interview. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming. If you are upset and stressed and concerned about being able to retain the information provided to you, bring a family member or friend along with you to that initial meeting and have him/her take notes for you and be your second set of ears.
- Remember that everything you tell your lawyer remains confidential. Even the fact that you are coming to see a lawyer is protected under solicitor/client privilege. Your family law lawyer wants to help you through this difficult process but must depend on you to give all of the information that is needed so that he/she can properly assess the situation within the legal context. Knowing that the information you share will remain strictly confidential should provide to you the confidence in sharing your story so your lawyer can help you in looking at the various options and likely outcomes.
Remember that as family law lawyers, we are in the business of helping you through the challenges and difficulties of the separation process. We are here to help you. We may not always tell you what you want to hear, but we will give you the information you need to understand the legal issues and the processes available to you to reach a resolution of the issues. Our goal is to work with you to attain for you the best possible results.